The Tuesday Takeaway
Milwaukee’s pitching has offered little excitement this year (except, perhaps, excitement about the fact that the Reds exist, which allows the Brewers to be second to last for most pitching stats instead of the worst in baseball). The Cubs’ hitting, on the other hand, has offered excitement near nonstop. And because baseball is weird, when the two met Tuesday night, the excitement was all Milwaukee’s—though the Cubs did their best to spoil that up until the very end.
Chase Anderson was sharp from the start, and the Cubs couldn’t figure him out. He stayed perfect through five innings, though run support was in short supply, only coming courtesy of a Jonathan Lucroy solo shot in the fourth. But the sixth was when things began getting interesting. After opening the inning by getting Javier Baez to ground out, Anderson couldn’t convince Miguel Montero to chase changeups out of the zone and ended the night’s perfection by putting him aboard with a walk. A stolen base later, Montero was in scoring position as the tying run and Dexter Fowler was at the plate. But Anderson wasn’t fazed, and he proved it by convincing Fowler to end the inning with a swinging strikeout on a fierce changeup.
The perfect game was lost, but the no-hit bid was intact, and more importantly, the Brewers were still holding on to a one-run lead. Things got more comfortable in the bottom of the sixth, as Milwaukee’s bats woke up to add three to the scoreboard on hits from Scooter Gennett, Ryan Braun and Chris Carter. Now with a 4-0 lead, Anderson worked a 1-2-3 seventh that included getting Anthony Rizzo out looking on the same changeup that had embarrassed Fowler an inning earlier. Anderson—who had yet to make it past the sixth inning this season, who had an ERA well over 5.00 and a FIP that suggested it should be even higher—was carrying a no-hitter against baseball’s best team into the eighth.
The eighth was where it ended, though, with Ben Zobrist doubling deep to center field on the first pitch he saw to start the inning. But the end of the no-hit bid was far from the end of the excitement—Anderson was still under 90 pitches, and a complete game shutout of the Cubs was within reach. He closed out the eighth with relative ease, and it was onto the ninth with a four-run lead for Milwaukee.
But the ninth was where the magic ran out. Anderson recorded the first out, the second, and then all that stood between him and the complete game shutout was Jason Heyward at the plate—one last out to secure not just the Brewers’ best pitching performance of the year, but a statement win against baseball’s best team. But on the way to that one last out was one fastball over the middle of the plate, which Heyward turned it into one home run. And to make the point explicitly clear, Kris Bryant did the very same thing five minutes later with an unfortunately placed sinker.
There would be no complete game shutout, no complete game, no shutout—only a pointed reminder that no, the Brewers’ pitching staff really can’t have nice things. Anderson’s night was over, and Jeremy Jeffress was tasked with locking down the final out to make sure the game’s mood stayed the frustration of a win that was almost something more rather than the acute pain of a ninth-inning collapse. He succeeded, and Milwaukee took the 4-2 win.
A Clayton Kershaw-Mike Trout matchup is something like baseball’s version of immovable object-unstoppable force. Of course, we think of this matchup as Kershaw on the mound and Trout in the batter’s box, because those are the areas where they are immovable and unstoppable, respectively—but Tuesday, we got the matchup in a bonus form. After getting a basehit off Jered Weaver, Kershaw tried to go first-to-third on a Chase Utley single to center field. Mike Trout had other thoughts.
It was perhaps the most humanized we’ve seen Kershaw all season, literally flat on his back and called out. Faltering on the basepaths aside, though, he had himself another characteristically insane performance Tuesday. Aside from a shaky second inning, where he allowed a run to score by balking and giving up three hits (“Even Homer nods,” in the words of Vin Scully), Kershaw was once more lights out in the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory. He had his sixth consecutive game with double-digit strikeouts, with 11, and gave no free passes to push his already ridiculous K-BB season totals to 88-4.
After giving the Reds a 15-6 drubbing Monday, the Indians came out to do more of the same last night. Though the bulk of the damage in their 13-1 victory came at the expense of Alfredo Simon—responsible for 10 runs off 14 hits in just 4.1 innings—the more interesting experience came at the hands of Steve Delabar. After coming in to relieve Simon with two men on, Delabar walked five batters while recording just one out, allowing four runs to score off walks alone before he was pulled. This meant that not one, but two Indians hitters (Jason Kipnis and Mike Napoli) came aboard with a walk and advanced all the way around the bases one walk at a time. It’s the first time this century that a pitcher has allowed so many walks while recording one out or less.
The matchup of Noah Syndergaard and Max Scherzer was the pitching duel it promised to be, the first game this season to see both starting pitchers with double-digit strikeouts. But while both were great, Syndergaard was better. With no walks and 10 Ks (including two to Bryce Harper), Syndergaard shut out the Nats on five hits, repeatedly crossing the 100 mph threshold for yet another night. Though Scherzer gave up just three hits, two of them were home runs, and those solo shots to Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto were the only runs of the game to seal a 2-0 Mets win.
The Brian Snitker era for the Braves got off to a characteristically miserable Braves start. A few hours after taking over as manager for the club, Snitker watched Aaron Blair implode to the tune of nine runs in just 1 2/3 innings—without any home runs, (un)impressively enough. The only consistent thing about Blair this season has been that he’s struggled, but Tuesday represented a new low as the Pirates attacked his fastball for hit after hit. For their part, the Braves’ offense didn’t go down without a fight, but a push highlighted by two home runs from rookie Mallex Smith wasn’t enough, and the Braves fell 12-9 in their first game without Fredi Gonzalez at the helm.
Finally, Khris Davis played the hero in Oakland with three home runs—the last of which was a three-run walk off to give the As an 8-5 win over the Rangers.
Defensive Play of the Day
It wasn’t a particularly good day for the Orioles, who were shut out 10-0 by the Mariners. But it could have been worse, if not for Joey Rickard’s twisting leap in the corner here to rob Chris Ianetta of a hit with one on in the fifth.
What to Watch on Wednesday
The Mariners and Orioles offer a matchup of two pitchers having breakout years in Taijuan Walker and Chris Tillman. Both have cut down on using their fastball this season and begun leaning more on other pitches, and results have been promising for each so far—Walker has notably cut his walks while inducing far more groundballs, and Tillman is posting a 2.57 FIP and has given up just one home run in eight starts. They’ll face off in Baltimore at 7:05 EST.
Mike Bolsinger will make his first start for the Dodgers after missing the start of the season with an oblique strain. For a team that’s been plagued by pitching injuries this year and had to dig into its depth chart as a result, his return as a sixth starter now is perhaps most notable simply for the chance for the rest of the rotation to get a bit more rest. Whether or not he stays a sixth starter or shifts to the bullpen right away is unclear at this point, but for this week, at least, he’ll offer a break to the rest of the Dodgers’ starters. He takes the mound against Nick Tropeano and the Angels at 10:05 EST.